Chronic pain. It need not be so.

Thursday April 9, 2015

I am 52. I am having my twenty fifth anniversary. Congratulations, you might think.

Actually not quite. This is an anniversary of chronic pain. It's a chicken and egg situation – has long term pain caused depression or has depression and its bedfellow anxiety caused long term pain? Some of you may well ask yourselves the same question.

For some with chronic pain, depression is a secondary and it can be treated effectively. I suspect that chronic low grade depression and anxiety are both causes and perpetuators of my pain, as I started with pain issues from my teens.

The stigma around depression and anxiety led me subconsciously to search endlessly for physical reasons for my pain - cervical ribs, compressed vertebrae – and undertake physical treatments. Acute pain has turned into intractable.

I swung from "I don't have a problem. My intellect has overcome my pain. I am as fit as my peers. I shall soar again" to "I am helpless and exhausted. I can't do that job because I might get pain. Nobody understands. I need to be looked after. I am not responsible for me." Life became a quest for the holy grail of no pain. The focus of my life for years has been pain avoidance, rather than enjoying a whole life. Not very balanced, eh?

So why do I want to share this with you? I want to share it because I recently completed a wonderful free online course called "Preventing Chronic Pain: A Human Systems' Approach" on Coursera.org. Even if you do not have physical pain, I think it is another part of the toolbox for our mental wellbeing.

It explains so much – how pain can develop from acute to chronic to intractable. It explains compassionately and clinically how we can prevent or manage this – the Seven Realms of Wellness. I have shed a tear in mourning for lost years. And so I want to tell you about this course in the hope that at least one of you will not have to shed those tears too.

Sunshine in the rain
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